Saturday, September 6, 2008

103 off, 82 off, and other monsters

"Your rock reputation is slipping a bit".

Something Nicky Power said to me after Macau, and it's true that when I first appeared on the poker scene I got away with murder for a while by playing very few hands but playing most of them like I had pocket rockets preflop, or the mortal nuts postflop. Of course I was never going to fool the better payers for very long that my starting range was about 4 hands and ever since Neill Kelly announced to the room in Tramore that I was all in with shit (Q4o to be precise) against Big Mick G's AQ (the brother was playing the side event and said most of his table audibly gasped when they heard my hand, and I had people coming up to me for the rest of the day to verify their ears hadn't deceived them), the old image has slipped (still works in the UK though!).

A lot of players I know start out very tight (which is good strategy for a novice anyway) and gradually loosen up, but I'm always had LAG tendencies. While the brother is both by nature and practise the ultimate TAG stroke nit, I wasn't above playing shit in what I judged to be the right spots. In fact, since the start I estimate at least 20% of my cash game profits come from targeting TAGs and nits for steals. The first time I used PokerTracker to analyse which hands I was winning money with and which hands were losers for me, I found to my surprise and secret delight the biggest winner at that point was 82o. That's not to say I considered it the mortal nuts, more often than not I was still folding it preflop, but variance meant that on a few occasions I went with it as a stealing or squeezing hand, hit the flop big, and got paid. Its reign as biggest winner didn't last very long either: ironically enough queens, one of my most hated tournament hands as it's probably dumped me out of more tourneys than any other, is consistently my biggest winner.

Anyway, yesterday afternoon saw me in the Square in Tallaght trying out the poker room there for the first time. I met Macspower from Boards before and had a very interesting chat with him. Only 20 starters I think, and I was first out. The tournament brought me back to my early days in the Fitz with 7 way family pots, people calling big raises with any two, and going mental if they hit a pair any pair. I played almost no hands in the first hour as I sized up the table before I found myself in the BB with 103o in a 7 way limped pot. Flop is Q103 with two clubs so have bottom two and check. A very aggressive ATC guy overbets (over 2 x pot). I've already seen him do this with (for example) bottom pair or a draw, so when everyone folds I repop by three. After a long dwell he shoves. I think for a while. Against, say, Rob Taylor, I'd probably fold, but getting over 5 to 2 on the call against someone with so many hands in his range that I'm ahead of (flush draw, KJ, J9, Q, 10 or 3) I figure it's a pretty standard call. He's actually got Q10 so I exit feeling pretty stupid.

I like the idea of daytime poker though and would strongly recommend it to anyone in the area.

My early exit gave me a whole afternoon off, so I arranged to meet Mireille in town to go see a film (Somer's Town, excellent). While waiting for her, I met the brother and he gave me some PLO tips for that night's Jackpot Monthly tournament. The main one being to play the PLO pretty tight and stay out of trouble. He also said that the PLO rounds tend to decide these round-of-each tournaments, sometimes to the point where the holdem is almost meaningless.

Only 15 or 16 starts and it was a high quality field that included Mick Stevens and Donal Norton, both of whom I shared a beer and interesting conversation with at the break. Mick in particular is a very thoughtful player with interesting ideas on the game.

What little value there was in the tournament was mainly supplied by a couple of Chinese gentlemen, one in particular didn't seem to have a notion what he was doing. He gradually donated his stack to me over series of bizarre hands.

Hand one: I've limped 7's and been reraised. Normally I'd tend to fold out of position to a single raiser but since it was him I decided it would be ok to play. Flop is 988, not the worst flop for me since my guess at this point is he has two picture cards. Check, call, planning to see what the turn brings and if he keeps firing. Turns a 6 so now I'm open-ended and it's an easy call when he bets. River's horrible for me, a 9 counterfeiting my 7's so that now I'm barely beating the board and losing to any card higher than a 7. I mentally check/fold but to my surprise he checks behnd. To my bgger surprise, he mucks when I show the 7's. There's general consternation at the table and the general impression is he misread the hand and mucked a winning hand, but on reflection it could also be an overplayed lower pair.

Next hand is Omaha and I have 10's on a KK10 board. I trap check call. He fires again on the turn and I call again. I lead the river, he raises, and suddenly I think Christ he could have something gay like K5 or K3 here so I just call and he announces flush. There are 4 hearts on the board and he thinks the lone ace in his hand gives him a flush but the dealer announces "pair of kings with an ace kicker". While he beats himself up about it, Donal helpfully points out to him that even if he had had the flush, he was still behind.

Next big hand I hero called him down with a jack high flush in Omaha and it was good.

Very next hand I have AA104 doublesuited in the SB and reraise pot preflop, everyone else drops out but he stays in. I lead out for pot on a fairly nondescript flop although I do also have a nut flush draw, he raises, I shove, he called with QQ83 and no draw.

All of which ensured I made the final table in decent shape with an above average stack. I barely won a hand there though. Two sets of 6's started the damage. First I was too clever by half limping with pocket aces hoping one of the livewires behind would raise and instead ending up in a 4 way limped pot. Flop looks safe enough, K96 rainbow, so when it's checked around I bet half pot. Everyone calls. Alrm bells should maybe have gone off at that point byt when a J hit the turn and it was checked around again, I took another half pot stab. Mick Stevens called in the SB, Donal reraised in the BB, and after some thought I folded as I was almost certainly beaten. Mick folded and Donal showed pocket 6's. At the time I was annoyed with myself for playing the hand this way but from a purely results oriented view it probably worked out best for me. If I play it normally, I raise the initial limper, but I suspect Donal calls anyway in the BB with his 6's, and in a headsup pot I'm more likely to go mad and think my overpair is good at get it all in on the flop or turn.

Next hand is Omaha, board is dry as hell (1063 rainbow), I'm sitting with a well disguised overpair again (queens this time) which I bet when it's checked round to me, but I have to fold when Mick check raises me. Pretty standard Omaha fold I think on a board with no draws. He shows 6's.

I then lost an allin race against a shortie, and the same guy effectively crippled me in a hand that exposed the glaring weakness in my Omaha flop play, which is not being sure how likely it is I'm ahead and as a result going into station mode. It's a typical MW pot and I have AJ64, flop is JJ2 with two diamonds (meaning I also have the nut flush draw). Checked around to the button who bets pot, almost half his stack. Here is where my brain seemed to shut down. After some thought I decided I was probably ahead (duh, since I'm only losing to J2 or 22) and the hand most likely to give me action was one with the remaining jack. The button's bet didn't necessarily signify he had the jack, it could be a steal in position from someone getting a bit short. If I reraised, I figured he was pot committed and would call anyway, but I'd probably scare away a weaker jack in someone else's hand. On the other hand, if I flatcalled now, a weaker jack might also come along (or better yet repop), and at the very least I'd find out if there was another jack out there. I also figured the button's chips were going allin on the turn regardless, so I just flatcalled.

Everyone else folded so now I figured I was either up against a weaker jack (most likely) or a pair of ducks (less likely, since I think the shortie would have tried to build a pot more slowly). a 7 on the turn seemed to chane nothing, only it did because when all the chips went in I found my opponent had J743 or some such. No ace from space and I was crippled. If any good PLO players out there would like to comment and tell me how I should have played this hand, I'd be most grateful.

Now I was so short I needed a double or triple up to get back in it. I figured Omaha was my best bet for this so I was hoping for a big pair hand or at least one with lots of high cards and flush possibilities that I could jam preflop. Most pots were 5 or 6 way limped so I figured a jam in one of these had a good chance of getting me headsup against a hand I was favourite again getting almost 2 to 1 on my money. With everyone's M's shrinking I figured most people wouldn't want to get involved for 20-40% of their stack preflop multiway so I'd maybe only get a call from the last limper.

Nice plan maybe (again, comments from better PLO players appreciated) but unfortunately no such opportunity arose. Eventually I'm in the BB, it's multiway, I flop top and bottom two pair (10-3 again!) on a board with two hearts so I jam it in figuring I'll get called by a flush draw. Actually two callers, one of whom is one the flush draw, which hits on the river. Oh well, c'est la vie. Or ma vie.

Overall I was happy with my play. I think I'm improving steadily at the PLO although there's a long way to go before the L plates come off, and I made some big calls that turned out to be correct in the hold'em. One aspect of my game that I can identify that has improved quite a bit recently is how I play small and medium pairs out of position. I observed The Fox playing them masterfully in Waterford and picked up a few new ideas and tricks.



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